EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Project DNA: Alaska

Alaska

The pertinent portion of Alaska's postconviction DNA testing statute, AK Stat § 12.73.020 provides in relevant part that

The court shall order post-conviction DNA testing of specific evidence if....

(3) the applicant did not admit or concede guilt under oath in an official proceeding for the offense that was the basis of the conviction or a lesser included offense, except that the court, in the interest of justice, may waive this requirement; for the purposes of this paragraph, the entry of a guilty or nolo contendere plea is not an admission or concession of guilt;....

(8) the applicant was convicted after a trial and the identity of the perpetrator was a disputed issue in the trial;

So, where does that leave pleading defendants? It's tough to say. As noted by Justin Brooks and Alexander Simpson in their awesomely titled law review article, Blood Sugar Sex Magik: A Review of Postconviction DNA Testing Statutes and Legislative Recommendations, 59 Drake L. Rev. 799 (2011),

Alaska's statute states DNA testing is available if “the applicant did not admit or concede guilt under oath in an official proceeding for the offense..., except that the court, in the interest of justicemay waive this requirement; for the purposes of this paragraph, the entry of a guilty or nolo contendere plea is not an admission or concession of guilt.” Alaska Stat. § 12.73.020(3) (2010). Confusingly, the statute also states DNA testing is available only if “the applicant was convicted after a trial and the identity of the perpetrator was a disputed issue in the trial,” leaving open the question whether an individual who pled guilty may be granted relief under this section--because the guilty plea means there was no trial and no issue to dispute. Id.  § 12.73.020(8).

Therefore, it is unclear whether a defendant who pleads guilty to a crime in Alaska is subsequently entitled to seek postconviction DNA testing. My guess would be that there would be a presumption against such testing that could be overcome based upon "the interest of justice." So far, however, the issue does not appear to have been litigated in the courts.

That said, Alaska's postconviction DNA testing statute was challenged in the most important court cases in this area. In District Attorney’s Office for the Third Judicial District v. Osborne, the Supreme Court held that (1) that there is no substantive due process right to postconviction DNA testing; and (2) there is only a limited procedural due process right to such testing. If you want to know why so many states continue to preclude pleading defendants from seeking postconviction DNA testing, you need look no further than the Osborne opinion.

-CM

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenceprof/2018/07/alaska-the-pertinent-portion-of-alaskas-postconviction-dna-testing-statuteak-stat-1273020-provides-in-relevant-part-th.html

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